Sunday, May 26, 2019

Elkhorn with special guests at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on April 13, 2019

One of the unexpected effects of having the annual and amazing Milwaukee Psych Fest occurring this year during the same weekend which also contains the hectic shopping day known as "Record Store Day" was that we were treated to afternoon performances by two bands who would be playing at the Psych Fest proper that evening: the always dependably creative and super-psychedelic Dire Wolves, and the powerful guitar duo known as Elkhorn.

My photo from the mixing area. Note Andrew Lyon in front getting some photos for the blog.

Elkhorn has made a name for itself over the past few years for releasing fascinating albums of great music. They have a sense of humor (one CD collected seven live versions of the song "Lionfish" for those late night compare-and-contrast sessions) and a sense of timing -- two new vinyl releases the week of this mini tour which brought them to Chicago and Bloomington, IN, in addition to the true home of live music in the US (Milwaukee).

photo by Andrew Lyon. Note the guy in back looking unshaven and confused near the mixer.

How to best describe Elkhorn? I'll pull out a trick from my days as a music journalist (and don't for a second think they're not still doing this) -- I'll quote the press materials without shame: "Folk/psych-rock guitar duo featuring Jesse Sheppard on twelve-string acoustic and Drew Gardner on electric, interweaving the extended folk tradition with psychedelic improvisation, moving freely from pre-rock to post-rock, from the 1860s to the 1960s and beyond."  What's missing from the description is that Jesse and Drew have a gift for memorable melodies and a knack for complicating things up until to just before the breaking point before they return to the hook. They are an excellent example of the kind of music that pleases both the casual fan and the elitist critic. 

I did not really expect to be the "sound guy" at this show (or at the following Dire Wolves performance) but there was no one else willing or able to do it and i was not going to ask to record a band and then say, "Hey I can't help you, you'll just have to play some chords and then lean over and set the gain on the store's mixer. While I watch." 

So, I was the sound guy. I had a pair of Beyerdynamic MC930 cardioid microphones in an ORTF stereo configuration up front on stage about 18 inches in the air to capture the acoustic sound of the guitar as well as some of the players on stage during the song with special guests. I obtained a stereo feed from the mixer which was identical to what was being fed to the speakers. These were recorded with the amazing Sound Devices MixPre6 in 24bit/96kHz glory. I mixed these four channels in Audacity to form what is known (incorrectly) to tapers as a "matrix" recording. A few small moments of silence between songs were removed with care in Audacity and xAct was used to encode into ALAC and mp3 formats.

As my photo below will attest, Jesse and Drew asked a couple of the members of Dire Wolves to perform on the last song. It was a great moment of controlled chaos and I thought it was incredible that they were able to produce such beauty together. 

Please support these two superb musicians and excellent human beings by seeing their live shows, buying multiple copies of their great merchandise (your friends are starving for great music -- why aren't you buying them music?), and talking to them respectfully after shows. 


suitable for burning to compact disc

a lossless, full resolution  file which can be used to burn a CD or to listen to on an iPhone or other Apple product

the highest quality setting for this popular lossy audio format

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Jim Warchol at Acme Records and Music Emporium in Milwaukee on April 21, 2016

I have been recording and greatly admiring the work of Jim Warchol for about five years. I have been meaning to upload my recordings of his work to this blog for quite sometime. I have at least three and possibly four of his wonderful shows ready to go and will be slipping them in between the other shows I am posting this week in an effort to catch up with some of my backlog of recordings. It seems that I am either too busy recording shows to upload them, or I am sitting around moaning and complaining about there not being any shows to record. Hopefully things will get better with the blog soon.

Jim is a very unassuming and friendly person. He does not give off the common "musician vibe" where there is an implicit divide between performer and audience member. As a consequence it is always to pleasure to see him at a show or hanging at Acme buying some vinyl. 

I am not sure when I first noticed his playing around town... I know I did see him at Alverno College in 2015 playing in Jon Mueller's Death Blues group. But most likely the first time was opening up at a show at Acme Records. Ken, the owner of Acme, really enjoys Jim's work and so he has been asked quite a few times to open up for visiting artists. 

Tonight was one such show -- he opened up for guitarist Marisa Anderson and then sat down next to me in the front row to listen intently to her show. 

Jim's music over the last few years -- both with his band Dryhouse Ruins and in his solo work -- is a sort of improvisational ambient "cloud" of sound which has intricate patterns hiding inside a larger drone sound. Like many guitarists i particularly enjoy listening to, his mastery of the fretboard is self-confident enough to seem effortless. When he appears to be in the mood to show off, then he will -- in a classy way. Much of the time, however, he plays in a style which is more reserved but no less interesting. 

Let me use an analogy of a house party. There is always the person in the middle of the room performing for people, telling an outrageous story or just being "the life of the party." This is your typical guitarist and more power to them for their willingness to stand out and shine. But usually, if you go over to the corner near a bookshelf, or the kitchen, there will usually be that one party guest who effortlessly discusses whatever topic is at hand, commenting with expert opinions and information without trying to steer the conversation of the group. In the long run, it is often that type of guest who becomes the best sort of friend to have -- someone who does not repeat the same classic stories or suddenly disappears on you when you're hundreds of miles away from home on a road trip. 

I know that I have photos from the other Warchol shows I am going to upload, but all I could find to post here is a promotional picture. 


suitable for burning to CD

lossless copy of the wav file - can also be burned to CD or played on your iPhone

highest quality version of this lossy but popular audio file format

This was most likely recorded with a pair Church Audio CA-14 cardioid microphones, hand made by Chris Church at his workshop up in Canada, fed into a Sony PCM M-10 recorder, probably with an intervening preamp stage via the Church Audio 9200 preamp. Audacity was used as always to clean up extraneous noise and for fade ins and outs. At times I will boost signals very slightly (2-3dB) in the 6kHz range using the parametric EQ in Audacity.  xAct was used to create the ALAC and mp3 files.